By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
People of Torbay give yourself a pat on the back. You are awesome.
Within hours of putting out an appeal for more volunteers to help with the vaccine roll out and supporting people shielding, our phones were ringing off the hook.
Offers were coming in so quickly we had to find more people to staff the phonelines and still within an hour of the lines opening we had a backlog of more than 60 messages.
Everyone of you wanted to help out in any way you could – some were braced to spend hours outside the Riviera Centre in freezing temperatures to ensure smooth and efficient delivery of the vaccines inside.
Others wanted to know how they could become part of our team of rapid responders, poised to drop everything and head out to pick up shopping or prescriptions for people whose supplies were running dangerously low.
We also spoke to lots of people willing to give up their time to pick up the phone and befriend people they have never met to ensure they hear a friendly voice and do not feel isolated.
During the first lockdown, nearly 1,000 people came forward, and we struggled to allocate them all as the crisis deepened, but we did contact as many as we were able and there are a lot of grateful people who were helped when they most needed it..
This time around, we are hoping that during this lockdown we will be able to get everything in place to beat this virus once and for all.
But it is going to be a long haul. With a population just shy of 150,000 people, nearly 50% of whom are over the age of 50, the vaccine roll out is going to take time.
Luckily, a lot of people were better prepared this time around and have sorted out their own prescription deliveries and have signed up for online shopping, but that is not the case for everyone.
Not everyone is online and not every pharmacy delivers furthermore some people cannot afford to stockpile food, so we still need you to help your neighbours in communities across Torbay.
We may have been overwhelmed by the numbers of calls at the weekend and when the phone lines reopened on Monday morning, but after the experience of most of last year when we had more volunteers than we could possibly make use of, we should not have been surprised.
No matter what we have been through – and let’s face it no-one could have predicted the depth of despair this crisis has caused – one thing has shone out time again – the kindness of Torbay’s numerous communities.
We have, with your help thus far been able to support nearly 4,000 people, and this time around there are new people turning to us and you are there for them.
Neighbours have helped neighbours, friends have helped friends, relatives have looked out for each other, and the best bit is strangers have been there for people they have never, and in some cases have yet to meet.
Little did we know of what was to come when we launched the Torbay Community Helpline back in March 2020, but we are all so proud of how it has developed into the place to go for get assistance on a wide range of subjects – as it says in the strapline, One Call, That’s All.
On Saturday between the hours of 9:30am and 12:30pm we took more than 150 calls to add to the 16,000 plus we have received in the past ten months – most were offering help, but new people are contacting us all the time.
Last week alone, we talked to another 120 people who needed help for the first time, and as the lockdown takes hold, those numbers will increase.
In the meantime, with everyone’s help, we can ensure that no-one goes hungry and no-one remains lonely and as many people as possible are delivered to the Riviera Centre in Torquay to get their jabs.
You have proved that when you are needed you are there for us and for each other and with this last herculean push we can not just make a difference, but together we can beat this.
The Helpline is operating from 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday and from 09:30am to 12:30pm on Saturdays. If you need help or can offer help, please call 01803 446022 or visit bit.ly/torbayhelpline
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